West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team finished its home schedule for the fall semester Tuesday night with a 85-69 win over Tennessee Preparatory Academy at the West Plains Civic Center.
The win ups the Grizzlies' record to 10-4 with just one more game to go before the midwinter break.
The Grizzlies took an early lead over the Diplomat Lions from Memphis, but then found themselves struggling to maintain it.
"We jumped out to a good start, but it felt like that habit our team has had of being comfortable returned," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said.
"We held them to 35 points in the first half, which is solid, and that includes some easy baskets off careless turnovers. We simply struggled a little bit against the zone early, and that threw our rhythm off," he explained.
"We missed a lot of easy baskets – missed layups, missed dunks, missed open shots. In some ways, it really wasn't so much about struggling to find shots or finding offensive structure. It was simply trying to put the ball in the basket," he added.
The teams went into halftime knotted at 35-35.
In the second half, the Grizzlies found their rhythm, thanks to a tenacious defense that created offense.
"When we guard and get stops, we get to run in transition, and we're pretty hard to guard end to end," Popp said. "Our goal was to play fast. When you're getting rebounds and steals, it's a lot easier to turn those into transition points."
Because of some injuries and illnesses, other players have had to step up and fill in, and Popp said these players have contributed positively.
"Montel Stewart gave us good minutes. D'Andre Vilmar started his second game and was solid again. Niekie Thomas started for us for the first time this season. He gave us great energy and was very efficient," the coach said.
This is the first time the Grizzlies have faced Tennessee Prep, and Popp was impressed with the team's talent.
"They're a talented team, and they have a number of players with high-level recruitment, and their staff does a great job," he said. "They're not deep, but their top level is talented."
The Grizzlies will finish the fall semester Friday on the road at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis.
"They played us close here and they're playing very well right now," Popp said. "That's a tough place to play, so we will have our work cut out for us."